I Feel Like My Boss Hates me!

Contributed by Keith Hermanstyne, MD, MPH; Psychiatrist and public health researcher

We’ve all been there: an important project deadline is approaching, and you worry about what your supervisor will think once you submit the final draft.  Martin recently dealt with a similar situation.  He’s an undergraduate student working in his first research lab, and he’s heard that Nina, the lead researcher, can be very tough when reviewing a manuscript draft.  It turns out, the rumors may have been right. 

When Nina gives Martin some initial feedback on his draft during a one-on-one meeting, he learns that Nina had some serious concerns about the content, grammar, and tone of the writing.  Given the amount of time Martin spent on writing the “perfect draft”, he feels angry and wants to respond immediately after Nina finishes delivering her feedback.  Before he begins speaking, how can Martin respond in an emotionally competent way to Nina’s critiques?

Hearing negative feedback can elicit a lot of feelings, and Martin would benefit from taking a “time out” to process his emotional state.  If he has good feeling management skills, he can try to do a mini check-in during that initial conversation with Nina.  Otherwise, he may want to postpone responding to her initial critiques until he has more time to get an emotional barometer reading on himself:  “O.K., Nina, let me review your feedback; would you be available for a follow-up meeting later this week?”

Once Martin has given himself some space for feeling management, he can sort and label the emotions he’s experiencing.  It usually helps a lot to also analyze how many of his emotions are relevant (i.e. stemming from Nina’s current feedback), anachronistic (either due to past criticisms or imagined, future attacks), or unrelated to Nina’s critique (but similar resentments or lack of appreciation feelings related to current events.)

Once he has a better sense of how much of what he’s feeling is related to the feedback on his best efforts, Martin can figure out what his goals are and then the next best steps to achieve them. 

Summary of the Emotional Competence Skills

  • Take a graceful time out when confronting a difficult interaction
  • Label and sort your emotions
  • Remember your goals and
  • Think of the next best steps to achieve them


|| June 2, 2014